Cultural Sensitivity: Dos and Don’ts When Visiting China

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It may surprise you that other countries have strict cultural rules and mores. It may further surprise you that you must be careful not to break any of those traditions, which are actually behaviours the Chinese have ingrained in themselves and their families.


Firstly, though, you should be sure you consult with and engage with experts in the field of China travel. You can visit TheChinaTravelCompany.co.uk for more information. 

Let’s start with some of the things of which you should always be aware:

  • Chinese lodging proprietors are not sticklers for having exactly the amount of bed space for guests. If there are more than initially considered, know that most lodging hosts won’t mind if you double up (and their single beds are equivalent to a double).
  • In Shanghai, give your cab driver coins, but in northern and western China, retailers do not like change and may refuse it.
  • Invest in a language app to help you converse with the locals.
  • Do use local or referred tour guides. They will be the ones who know the inner workings of the cities.
  • Most Chinese eat rice as an end-of or toward-the-end of meal filler, so if you want it with your meal, ask for it.
  • Always bring your own toilet paper, because you’ll rarely find it in public bathrooms.
  • Hotel breakfast can often be local fare (i.e. congee and pickles), so purchase beforehand accordingly.

Gifts are important to impart on your hosts – even though they may initially refuse, they will eventually accept. And it is expected, if not ever stated.

If, for example, you’re going to give a set of tea cups or a set of bowls, never give them to the Chinese in sets of four – eight is actually an okay number of things to present, but avoid fours. Many items come already chosen in neatly presented boxes and are a great idea for the shopper in a hurry.

Polaroid cameras and the subsequent instant photos are really trending right now. You’ve probably seen them, as they now come in ice-cream hued colours. Sure the film is expensive, but you get a photo to place in your memory box or scrapbook. And, the rural Chinese love a little gift and the gift of a Polaroid photo is very welcome.

Unlike Americans who are fearful of upsetting a homeowner when they’re gone from the house, but the visitor’s would like to tour. Believe it or not, that’s okay. Residents are accustomed to visitors “stepping off the beaten path” and exploring side streets and alleys.

Do not, after a meal or your room’s been cleaned, offer a tip to the waiter or waitress and/or hotel maid. Tipping is considered a faux pas and if you offer money as a tip, you’ll embarrass your host.

And speaking of partaking in a meal, some will be prepared for you and others you will have to fend for yourself.

There are a lot of people in China. Subsequently, there are a lot of people who have to wait in line. Staff is probably used to it. There won’t be a rush/thrust forward and you won’t have to claw your way to a better position.

You can slurp noodles and belch, but don’t raise your voice too much, even to combat the din of the crowd. 

If you have a bowl of rice, and you’d like to have some soup, do not take your chopsticks and stick them into the mound of rice in your bowl. The chopsticks, for the Chinese, then resemble incense sticks which are associated with – yes, you guessed it – death and funerals.

Have a nice day!

 This article is published in partnership with Mediabuzzer

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  1. ¡Hola guapa!

    Como todo… pros y contras, lo que si tengo muchísimas ganas de conocer China, se que para decir lo bueno y lo malo necesito verlo con mis propios ojos 🙂

    Un besazo

  2. A mí me encanta ir a sitios que sean muy distintos culturalmente hablando. Por trabajo viajo por Asia y tengo trato constante con asiáticos, además hablo chino así que tu post me ha parecido muy interesante.

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